Wedding Day Timeline Tips

April 25, 2023


Developing your wedding day timeline can be a daunting task for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be! While every wedding day has different logistics, and every couple has different priorities, an experienced professional photographer will work with you to help you create a timeline that reflects you and your day. And if you are working with a wedding planner, then your photographer should collaborate with your planner to make sure that your photography goals are met in the timeline. 

As a New England wedding photographer, I have created countless wedding day timelines, so today I am sharing my best tips for couples. Once you have thought through all of your must-have wedding photos, start with your ceremony start time and work backward from there to develop your timeline. The examples I’m sharing here are based on a 4:30 PM ceremony time, which is common for weddings in the New England area! 

A Sample Wedding Day Timeline for a 4:30 PM Ceremony

Getting Ready & Detail Photos

12:30 PM

Capturing getting-ready photos can surprisingly be very natural. As your photographer, I’m a fly on the wall for the most part and may step in to gently guide you in order to capture all of the exciting and anticipated moments. If both fiances would like getting ready photo coverage, then you should plan on at least 1.5 hours total. 

Additionally, if you would like delicate flat-lay photos of your bridal details, plan to designate 30 minutes for this. Otherwise, I will capture your details more organically. I will typically arrive about 30 minutes before you’re ready to be dressed in order to capture candids and details, and then the final 30 minutes are final touchups and a few portraits of you and your getting-ready crew(s).

For a 4:30 PM ceremony, this process usually takes place from about 12:30 – 2:00 PM.

First Look Photos

2:15 PM

If you choose to have a first look incorporated into your wedding day timeline, then here is an example of what to expect at this time. (If you are still deciding on whether or not to have a first look, check out this post for some suggestions!) 

Once you are dressed and ready, I usually plan for the first look to take place at 2:15 PM (again, for a 4:30 PM ceremony). 

I will help you get ready for your first look, and we can make it as natural or set up as you feel comfortable with! Whichever resonates with you the best. I really love the first look moment because it is so honest, exciting, and heartfelt. And, chances are it will be one of the few moments you’ll have alone together on your day. 

Couple Portraits

2:30 PM

Right after your first look, we will segue into couple portraits. I absolutely love the energy in these moments before your ceremony. I will guide you into interactions as well as some classic portrait poses while not losing focus on your love for each other. You will be having the time of your lives and I’m there to capture it for you! 

Family Photos

3:00 PM

It is important that family photos run smoothly, so I bring our list of family portrait groupings that we have created together in advance, so family photos are a breeze and enjoyable! Generally, I recommend 30 minutes for this process.

Wedding Party Photos

3:30 PM

Depending on the size of your wedding party, I recommend 30 minutes for wedding party photos. Something to consider ahead of time is if you will want just photos of everyone as a group, or photos with you and your individual party members – or other iterations. It is also helpful to prep your wedding party in advance as to when exactly they will need to be available and focused for photos – especially with large parties.

Ceremony Location and Guest Arrival Photos (and wedding party tucked away!)

4:00 PM

I recommend that we finish all portrait photos 30 minutes before your ceremony so that you have time for any final touchups and to get ready to start. Guests will typically begin arriving 30 minutes before the ceremony as well, so I take advantage of that point and capture photos of your ceremony location and setup as well as some guest candids.


4:30 PM

Generally, most ceremonies last from 15-30 minutes. One thing I always tell my couples for ceremony photos is that I like to understand the flow of your ceremony beforehand so that I can be aware of any traditions or twists that you’ll be incorporating into your ceremony and can be ready with my camera!

Cocktail Hour

5:00 PM

Most of the time, cocktail hour takes place for one hour from about 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Some couples chose to extend this timeframe to 90 minutes though, especially if they need to take portraits during this time (couple, wedding party, or family) if not all done before the ceremony. 

We will talk about your priorities for this time of the event beforehand and whether you prefer for the photography focus at this point to be on portraits or more on candids. I will also use this time to photograph your reception details before the reception begins. 

[If you are still looking for the perfect New England wedding venue – check out my favorites here]

First Dance and Toasts

6:00 PM

It can be a good idea to combine your reception entrance with your first dance because at that point you will have the undivided attention of all of your guests! I also find that a lot of couples prefer to have the first dance early on rather than letting the anticipation build too much. This is also often the time that speeches and toasts are made before dinner is served.


6:30 PM

Typically you can plan for about one hour for dinner. This is also when I take my break – it is beneficial for your photographer/videographer/coordinator to eat while the married couple eats so that we don’t miss anything. Once you’re finished and mingling with your guests, we will be ready to capture those moments.

Sunset Photos

7:00 PM

Depending on the sunset on your wedding day, I love to take you for just a few moments of sunset photos. This allows you to again have a few moments alone with each other, and we get some joyful and romantic photos in the soft evening light. I also find that couples are much more relaxed at this point (versus during portraits), and so the energy we capture on camera is much different. 

Special Dances

7:30 PM

If you are planning to have any special dances on your wedding day, such as parent/child dances, they generally will happen right before open dancing.

Open Dancing

7:40 PM

I recommend photography coverage for 1-2 hours of open dancing unless you plan to have any unique twists in your reception. This allows me to capture the excitement of the party without getting too many too-sweaty photos! I also will use this time to grab a few shots of your venue lit up at night.

8:30 PM – Photography Coverage Ends – Yay You’re Married!

Of course, every wedding day is different, but this is a general wedding timeline to get you started! A professional photographer will work with you to determine your priorities for photos and help you develop your perfect wedding day timeline from there. 

Still searching for your wedding photography soul mate? Please reach out to me! I adore meeting new couples and getting to know your vision for your special day. 

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ABOUT kelly

At home near the sea. Ever-focused on finding beauty in intimate or grand moments; found in the love stories that leave me breathless and in awe. 

Kelly  deeply values connection by being intentional in knowing her couples and their love stories. Through her organic and natural photography style, she creates timeless images that allow you to relive your moments and remember how you felt. Kelly began her professional career in 2015 and has since been delivering skillfully crafted images and an elevated experience for every couple she works with. She will help you feel natural and relaxed in front of the camera by knowing when to give guidance and when to let the moments naturally evolve, focusing on your unique and unforgettable celebration from start to finish. Based in Boston, she would love to document your authentic love throughout New England and beyond.